Cromarty Hydrogen Project, located just north of Inverness, will be the UK’s largest, producing up to 20 tonnes of green hydrogen each day.
The project, a partnership between ScottishPower and decarbonisation development firm Storegga, will see hydrogen replacing existing fossil fuel sources for the heating processes of distilleries, with potential to supply to other local manufacturers, food producers and industrial operators.
It is going ahead after a successful feasibility study, undertaken in collaboration with major whisky producers Diageo, Glenmorangie and Whyte & Mackay – all of which have operations in the Cromarty region – and is expected to be operational from 2024.
The Scotch whisky industry has set out plans to reach net zero emissions by 2040, five years ahead of the Scottish national target and a decade before the UK deadline.
Developers say the Cromarty scheme will help make Scotland’s national drink greener and “transform industry in the Highlands”.
There is also potential for green hydrogen to be used as a cleaner alternative fuel for aeroplanes, trains, ships and spacecraft.
ScottishPower and Storegga plan to construct further hydrogen schemes across the Highlands in the future.
“This is a really exciting milestone in our ambitions to support the growth of green hydrogen production across the country and the decarbonisation of heavy industry,” Barry Carruthers, hydrogen director at ScottishPower, said.
“We can now get to work on turning plans on paper into tangible and deliverable projects that will transform industry in the Highlands – making a long and lasting difference for people, businesses and communities.
“We’re excited to be working with Storegga to help create a clean energy future for this stunning and vital economic region of Scotland.”
Andrew Brown, head of hydrogen at Storegga, which is also lead developer of the Acorn Carbon Capture and Storage and Hydrogen project in Aberdeen, said: “The Cromarty Green Hydrogen Project is expected to be the UK’s largest green hydrogen facility when it commences operations in 2024, and is expected to rapidly expand thereafter.
“Storegga has been working with the distilling sector on the energy transition since 2014.
"In 2019, the Scotch Whisky Association’s Pathway to Net Zero report identified that hydrogen would play a key role in enabling net zero for the distilling sector.
“Phase one of the Cromarty Hydrogen Project is expected to be the first of many as we develop a broader green hydrogen manufacturing capacity in Scotland this decade.
“Storegga is proud to be working with ScottishPower and the distillers on this ground-breaking project.”
This announcement of the Cromarty initiative comes in the same week that petrochemical giant Ineos began a hydrogen fuel network trial at its plant in Grangemouth, as part of moves to cut emissions from operations.
If successful, the trial – being carried out in collaboration with gas distributor SGN – will bring plans for a UK-wide delivery network for hydrogen a step closer.
The trial, which is funded by the energy regulator and gas distribution companies, will use hydrogen supplied by Ineos in a 29km section of decommissioned pipeline between the Grangemouth site and Granton, in Edinburgh.